Tuesday, January 26, 2016

the ten comMANdments

"...the commandments of people who turn away from the truth" (Tit. 1:14).

Engraved on his own heart of stone by the finger of modern man:

I. You shall be god.
II. You shall still, however, misuse God's name.
III. Forget old, outdated religious customs.
IV. Disrespect your parents, other authorities, and elders.
V. You shall not call it murder.
VII. You shall not get caught stealing.
VIII. You shall say what it takes to get ahead.
IX. You shall not be content.
X. You shall never be content!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Three Weddings and a Resurrection

"On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee" (John 2:1).

The Wedding at Cana is my favorite Holy Gospel.  It was Sunday's Holy Gospel, so last week I sent out wedding invitations to the congregation.  When I hear this Holy Gospel it fills me "up to the brim" with joy because it makes me think of three beautiful weddings.

In 1994 a movie came out called Four Weddings and a Funeral.  I never saw it and probably don't recommend it.  The point is, I would title John 2:1-11 Three Weddings and a Resurrection.  I'll explain.

The first wedding is the most obvious: the wedding of a man and a woman.  What a remarkable design!  And it goes all the way back to Genesis 2 and the very first wedding.  It's no accident that the Wedding at Cana is found in John 2.  Genesis 2 and John 2.  God is saying through this: "I came up with marriage, and now in Christ I've come to renew it and bless it again, forgive all the sins committed against it, heal and help it!"  Let us rejoice, therefore, and not give up hope for this holy institution!

The second wedding is not as obvious but it's there: the wedding of Christ and the Church.  I think that when John mentions the bridegroom at Cana he wants us to begin thinking of Christ.  And sure enough, in the very next chapter we learn that Christ is the Bridegroom and we are the Bride, and that John the Baptist is the Best Man in this eternal wedding (John 3:29).  In this wedding story the Bridegroom gives Himself up for His Bride, making the Cross the greatest love story ever told!

The third wedding will likely be new to you: the wedding of Christ and faith.  The faith in your heart, to believe and trust in Christ, is His true bride.  In languages like Greek and Latin, "faith" is a feminine noun.  And what is true grammatically is true spiritually also.  So Christ and faith, though two, become one.  Luther put it, "This faith couples Christ and me more intimately than a husband is coupled to his wife."  What a way to think of your faith in Jesus Christ!

Three weddings and a resurrection.  I've spoken about the three weddings.  What about the resurrection?  How does Cana make us think of that?  In its opening words: "On the third day."  That's resurrection talk, and have a look at the nearby John 2:19-22!  See, it's the resurrection of Christ that means everything for the three weddings.  It means that a husband and wife can invite Him now to come and bless their marriage.  It means that He is with the Church, for whom He died, all the days until the end.  And it means that my faith, your faith, is in the crucified-risen Christ Jesus our Lord - and that nothing can separate us from His love!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Traveling Together

I have an uncle, Rev. Gordon Giese, who celebrates his 80th birthday next week.  He's a retired LCMS pastor, ordained in 1961.  I write this little devotion in thanksgiving for his faithful service to our synod.

"...but supposing Him to be in the group (Luke 2:44).

In the Greek original, the word for group is "synod," and it's worth a closer look.  (It is used only here in the New Testament, although a verb form occurs in Acts 9:7.)

And that's partly because my congregation and I are part of a church body called The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, made up of over six thousand congregations.  It was established in 1847 by German immigrants in search of religious freedom.

It's often said that "synod" means to "walk together."  But there's a little more to it, and the picture given in Luke 2 is perfect.

In traveling to and from Jerusalem for the Passover, Joseph, Mary, and twelve-year-old Jesus (at least on the way there) were part of a synod: a caravan made up of relatives, friends, and neighbors.  People did this because there was safety in numbers.  They could also help each other on the way.  They probably sang.  They shared the journey and its joy - and its challenges.

That's a synod.

And that, then, is the idea behind the Missouri Synod.  A caravan.  A people traveling together through a spiritual desert or dangerous country on the way to the Heavenly Jerusalem.  No one and no congregation travels alone.  We help and encourage each other!  We share the joy and the challenges of the journey, singing our way to the Feast!

"Synod," in the minds of many, is synonymous with bureaucracy.  Such a pity!  In reality, no better word for the church could be found than the one that means a caravan of pilgrims.  "Pilgrims here, our home above, full of faith and hope and love!"